flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
A couple months ago I mused:
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.

Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.


No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.

Recently I realized there is a nice, short, Germanic word for female genitalia: cunt. Even better, it encompasses the whole vulva (another Latin word), not just the passage between the cervix and the labia minora (Latin again). (Acquaint yourself with the relevant anatomy.)

The history of cunt

The etymology of cunt traces at least to Middle English (cunte, "female genitalia"). The first known reference in English apparently is in a compound, Oxford street name Gropecuntlane cited from c.1230 (and attested through late 14c.) in "Place-Names of Oxfordshire" (Gelling & Stenton, 1953), presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Cunt shares cognates in several Old Germanic languages and is perhaps linked to Latin cuneus (wedge) or cunnus (vulva).

Cunt has been considered taboo and impolite since the 15th Century (Shakespeare alluded to the word but didn't use it directly) and obscene and illegal since 1700. This shouldn't be too surprising: genitalia is a fairly universally taboo subject with dozens of slang terms and euphemisms in every language. Cunt was probably considered obscene because it unambiguously refers to a woman's genitals; polite discourse of the time only referred to sex organs indirectly. Even the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue glossed the word as C**T, The chonnos of the Greek, and the cunnus of the Latin dictionaries; a nasty name for a nasty thing: un con Miege. (emphasis mine). It was impolite to directly refer to women's genitals in a slang dictionary! Contemporary society has dropped many centuries-old taboos, including direct genital discourse in many contexts. So let's also drop the taboo on calling a cunt a cunt.

Twat (origin unknown) gained use in the 1650s, perhaps as a more polite replacement for cunt. It too became considered vulgar, and doesn't seem to have sustained a long literary life, based on this ngrams comparison of cunt, twat, and vulva.

That ngrams graph shows a promising rise in use of cunt in written English since 1950 (after some notable pre-war literary appearances). This may originally have been driven by offensive use. It was then picked up as a common topic by feminist writers; some wanted to banish the term as offensive; others wanted to reclaim the term as powerful. Ngrams suggests that the latter is gaining ground: "her cunt" now appears in twice as many books as "a cunt".

Isn't cunt offensive?

Thanks to context, the word can be both offensive and powerful. It remains offensive to call someone a cunt; it equates the whole of the person with a single sexual body part. It is likewise offensive to call a person a twat or a pussy. Even the accepted medical terms would be offensive if used as an epithet: she's such a vagina is offensive, though vagina and vulva are such awkward words that nobody uses them as insults. Likewise, penis words applied to a person are also offensive: he's such a {dick, prick, schmuck}, though the male versions seem less offensive: a guy's more likely to say I'm a dick sometimes than a gal is to say I'm a cunt sometimes. Calling someone an elbow, a thumb, or another non-head body part is likely offensive, too. One of my favorite exchanges on the old Forum2000 site was Q: My girlfriend is a cunt. A: I think you're making an is-a/has-a error. Many young logicians fail to make this distinction.

When used to refer to a body part rather than a person, cunt is unambiguous and direct, which is powerful. It acknowledges female sex organs as normal, like any other body part. It doesn't imply that a woman's genitals are a cat, a rodent, a mollusk, a food, or any other silly euphemism. Cunt and twat don't try to be cute like coochie, fanny, or vajayjay; instead they fit in with other short, direct, Germanic body parts like head, arm, leg, and groin. You could say that cunt rolls off the tongue.

Vagina comes from medical Latin; vagina in general Latin means sheath, scabbard, and similar enclosing uses. Medically, the vagina is the passage between the uterus and the vulva. Using vagina as the polite and accepted term for the whole of female genitalia denigrates several important components in female anatomy and sexuality, not least of which is the clitoris. Cunt covers the whole kit and caboodle, as does vulva. In a medical context, use vulva to refer to the whole package and vagina to refer to the passage. In a context where belly or gut would sound better than abdomen, use cunt or twat over vulva. Even in medical contexts, Germanic words may be a better choice:

Novick remembers one of the first arguments he had with a prudish supervising clinician who insisted that their HIV questionnaire use the words vaginal secretions when asking women if their partners performed oral sex on them. Novick thought the word choice was preposterous because the clinic served a low-income area with a heavily Latino population. He fought and eventually won over the supervisor when he showed that half the participants didn’t know what vaginal secretions were. But when they were asked if they knew what Novick’s term meant, there was 100 percent comprehension. His choice of words? Cunt juice.

Post script: penis

Researching this post, I was hoping to find a similar nice Germanic word for penis. It's not as awkwardly medical as vagina, but there's a whole host of monosyllabic slang terms like dick, dong, schlong, and wang that sound better. "I'm gonna suck your dick" sounds sexy, "I'm gonna suck your penis" sounds like a procedure. Unfortunately all the Online Etymology Dictionary results for penis are euphemistic. Penis itself was originally Latin for tail, which makes me wonder how to refer to the penis of an animal with a tail. Plug tail and tickle tail appear for penis in 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, with tail itself meaning prostitute and several other tail associations for lewd women. Wikipedia's Penis article claims that English previously used yard, though that also seems derived from a measuring stick. There are more objects shaped like a penis (tail, shaft, tool, wiener) than like a cunt, so perhaps it's natural that people would reuse a term rather than evolve a distinct word. Now pardon me, I need to make a saving throw vs. rod, staff, or wand.

Body Syllables

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 12:17 am
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken heels over head)
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.

Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.


No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.
flwyd: (farts sign - Norway)
From an email from a recruiter:
… is an excellent company to work for and offers a kick back work environment in which employees can bring their dog to work …
The choice of words is questionable; I think of kick back work environments as, say, customs inspector in Russia or contracts supervisor in Chicago.

This is, however, the second unsolicited recruiter contact I've had in the last couple weeks. So if you're looking for a tech job, make sure your resume is online and up-to-date. At least in this neck of the woods, people are hiring.

Give and Take

Monday, January 11th, 2010 12:03 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
At a first pass, give and take are reciprocal verbs. But they're involved in some nonreciprocal idioms:

Caregivers and caretakers are the same thing. Shouldn't the patient be the caretaker? Also, "Take care" (as a command or suggestion) means "Be careful," but when someone gives lots of care, the recipient isn't careful or full of care.

Giving a shit and taking a shit have nothing in common. The first is a synonym for caring (but not in a caregiver/caretaker way), the latter is a biological activity.

There are some idioms where the reciprocity is preserved, though. If someone takes up golf, he starts golfing. If someone gives up golf, he stops golfing.

In the middle ground, if you take out an add, you generally give out your phone number or address.

Any more?

Syntax Bush

Monday, February 23rd, 2009 06:36 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
Is there a sensible syntax tree for A rose is a rose is a rose? The parse that makes most sense to me is
{a rose is [a rose} is (a rose])
which is not a tree. But the parse
((a rose) is ((a rose) is (a rose)))
is NP is VP at the top level, and that's not generally grammatical (e.g., "Obama is the president lives in the White House").

Time to Cash Out

Monday, December 8th, 2008 11:25 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
Edit: Replace "Cashe" in the first question with "Cash." I'd originally typed Cache and only half fixed it.

[Poll #1312043]

AIM at English

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 11:03 pm
flwyd: (farts sign - Norway)
[livejournal.com profile] flwyd how's Frday?
[livejournal.com profile] flwyd apparentyl my keyboard doesn't like e tonight
[livejournal.com profile] flwyd but I'll be delivering cats on Saturday night
[livejournal.com profile] evilfuzzymonste oh, wow, I must be sleepy! For a moment, I read that as "De-liver-ing"
flwyd: (fun characters)
While writing my I Ching story I had cause to refer to the man in a concubine situation. "His wife" / "Her husband" are perfectly clear. We know the connotations of "His concubine,", but what is the word for the inverse relationship? "Her _____" The best I can come up with in a little thesaurus work is "consort," but that doesn't seem to carry all the meaning. Or is this one of those words that history has had little use for, since the story is rarely told from concubine's point of view?

Vegan Spam?

Monday, February 26th, 2007 11:24 pm
flwyd: (spam lite)
In the past few weeks, I've received a few random comments on recent posts (1 2) unrelated to the subject at hand.
Great design, useful info!This resourse is great!Keep it up!With the best regards!
Frank (not [livejournal.com profile] frank, natch)
Hello, thanks a lot, You'v done a great job.I can only realize how much time and resources does it take to create such a resource!Great work, I am impressed!
I got another one today on a sweet and geeky post not in the most recent 30, but from all the way back in 2003.
Hi! Author, I'll just agree with you.
And just cool design, interesting site name flwyd.livejournal.com :), I see you you're are not newbe. Don't stop the nice job!
This post came from According to my IP Locator Dashboard widget, that's in Jiangsu, China. The others came from Shangdong ( and Beijing (

This has all the hallmarks of spam except one: where's the potted meat? They're not selling anything. They're not linking anywhere. There's no way to contact the poster. Just generic positive comments in odd English.

I can think of two explanations:
  1. Chinese Internet users are practicing their English. They've learned some stock phrases, but their comprehension isn't very good, so they don't say anything about the content of the blog.
  2. The comments originally contained links with cross-site-scripting attempts and LiveJournal silently removed the Krusty-Os from the Spam, leaving a nice wholesome product.

Wherefore I receive them I care not, because it gave me an opportunity to read a touching post from the past. Do any of my readers have amusing examples of this phenomenon?

Phish and Chips

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 07:02 pm
flwyd: (spam lite)
Blogging randomly generated spam is passe, but this hand crafted spam is enjoyable.

Headers )Good day,

This is an email from Rac Plc in United Kingdom; also know as Great Britain,
We would like to know if you would be interested to work for us, as a
part-time job, which would not disturb your current job or your current

We have our company here in United Kingdom and we deal on Car Buying, Car
care, Insurance, Training on how to drive, Loans and leasing, Motorcycle
services and so many more, we have few client from the USA/CANADA,
California, Florida, New York, Ontario, Quebec and so many other states in
the USA/CANADA, but we have been having problems with most of our clients
from USA/CANADA, because some would prefer to pay by Cashiers Check or
Money Orders, which we can not cash here, but it is easy to cash over in
the USA/CANADA, so we are looking forward to get representatives around the
USA/CANADA that can be working for us as a part-time job, which we are
willing to pay 10% of every money you receive from our clients, so you
would just need to help us get the payment and get it cashed directly from
your bank and send the money to us down here in United Kingdom or to any of
our local offices worldwide via Money Gram outlet or western union.Read more... )
Let's play "What's wrong with this picture?"
  • The domain rac.co.uk is legit, and some details (like the company number) match the whois registry. But what company has held their own domain since before 1996, but receives email at myway.com? And what British company would send mail from a *.pl (Poland) address?
  • Business with this company includes buying cars, auto insurance, and learning to drive. We can deduce from the email that they supposedly lack a U.S. branch. How much business can they do selling cars to people on the other side of an ocean? Who would learn how to drive remotely... from a teacher who drives on the other side of the road? And if they have to process cashier's checks through random guys they meet on the Internet, how painful do you think it would be to get reimbursed for an insurance claim?
  • Why would they require "details of where you work and your position in your work place" if this is a "part-time job, which would not disturb your current job or your current position?"
  • Official correspondence from British companies typically goes through people who spent many years in British schools getting into fights learning the rules of the English language. The sentence "Send to us: 1800.00USD and you pay the cost of sending from the $1800.00 or from the money left with you after deducting your income" doesn't sound like any of the Brits I know. The Brits I know also don't use paragraph-long run-on sentences.

On the plus side, they realize that "the cost of coming to the States to get the payment and go to cash it our self, will be lot more stressful." A transatlantic flight to pick up a cashier's check at a PO Box, exchange it for currency, and then fly back (with airport money exchange rates no less) would be quite stressful. The plane tickets would probably take a big bite out of the $2000.00USD transaction.

In summary, if someone in Poland ever sends you an email on behalf of a British company and asks you to send a cashier's check to a random dude in USA/CANADA or, if you prefer, "Money Gram or western union," I suggest you reconsider your provider for leased cars and motorcycle services.

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